From Cali to Chitown: Zesto Audio & Reference Analog Debut the Eros Monoblocks at AXPONA

As I think I wrote somewhere, it's one thing to hear equipment at a show, another thing to hear it at home. I meant to imply that, of course, at home is the only way to truly hear a piece, in your reference system.

But at AXPONA, where George Counnas (center) and Carolyn Counnas (right) debuted their new Zesto Audio Eros 500 Select KT-150 equipped, class-A monoblocks, with Zesto Audio's Leto Ultra II preamp, which I reviewed in January 2021, I was flummoxed at the beauty of sound, extravagance of liquidity and detail, and nearly spiritual physicality the system endowed to a variety of music.

The Counnas's system, presented with Reference Analog's Jeff Harris (left), included a Dr. Feickert Analogue Blackbird Deluxe turntable ($8635), Tri-Planar U2-SE 9.8" tonearm ($8600), Tri-Planar VII-U2 9.8" tonearm ($6900), Ortofon Verismo MC cartridge ($6999), Benz Micro Gullwing SLR MC cartridge ($3600) into a Zesto Audio Andros Téssera Reference vacuum-tube phono stage ($19,900). The Zesto Audio Leto Ultra II vacuum tube preamp ($11,900) drove the Eros 500 Select monoblocks (250Wpc into 8 ohms, $35,000/pair), which powered a pair of Dali-esque YG Acoustics Hailey 2.2 loudspeakers ($52,800/pair).

Amp stands and racks were by Stillpoint ($719–$1999); cables by Cardas Audio, including Beyond interconnects ($4250/1m pair), Clear Beyond Dual Phono ICs ($4600/one-meter pair), Clear Beyond speaker cables ($9220/2m pair), Beyond XL power cords ($2750/1m), and Nautilus Power Strip ($1500).

Playing Hank Mobley's classic Blue Note release, No Room for Squares, and the equally classic but misunderstood (by me), Witches Brew, by Alexander Gibson and the New Symphony Orchestra of London, the Zesto blew out my opinions and deranged my preconceptions.

The Zesto rig revealed all the drive, momentum, and tonal splendor of Mobley's tenor, but also turned Witches Brew, which I always deemed another corny "hi-fi record," into a viable test record for extreme hi-fi antics from mad dynamics and range warping instrumentation to bombastic low-end frivolity. Beautiful layering and seamless integration of range-spanning sounds produced consistent engagement. Ray Brown's Soular Energy, used in a number of rooms at AXPONA, sung with deep bass traction, lively drums and Gene Harris's sparkling piano. A treat of magnificent transparency and terrific tonality.